I recently bought an affordable HP nx6125 laptop and I’ve spent the last few days trying to get Ubuntu linux 6.06 (dapper) to run acceptably on it. Since it’s taken days it’s safe to say that not everything has gone super smooth, but a lot of the time has gone by trying to figure out just what the problems were in order to fix them. If I had to do it all over again today the whole thing shouldn’t take more than your average installation of Windows. So if you’re trying to get linux to run on your nx6125 I’ve got a few pointers to reduce your workload. I would assume some of them are are valid for other laptops with similar specs too.

Gnome - a pleasant place to be

1) Start by updating your BIOS. The downloads can be found here.

2) Download Ubuntu. Even if your nx6125 has a Turion64 CPU, stick with the x86-version, since you’re more likely to find working drivers with the standard version. I would think you’d be hard pressed to find a preformance gain with the 64bit version too.

3) Important. If you just boot from the CD the system will run really, really, really slow. On the CD menu press F6 to edit the boot parameters, and add “noapic” (not to be confused with “noapci”). Without this the installation will take hours. I couldn’t resize the preinstalled Windows partition, which might have worked with this option enabled. Once installed you might have to add this option to the GRUB bootloader too. Run “sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst” and add “noapic” to the end of the line that says “kernel /boot/vmlinuz-(…) quiet splash”.

Update: I’ve updated to Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and the noapic switch doesn’t seem to be needed anymore. If you’re installing Edgy from scratch, you can probably skip this step unless the installation runs really, really slow and the system fan runs wild.

4) Getting the laptop’s internal wlan adapter to work is tricky to say the least. It’s a Broadcom unit called BCM4318. I finally got it working following this thread the Ubuntu forums, but not on the first go and it’s still not fully stable and only supports 802.11b (11 Mbit). There’s also an approach using ndiswrapper, but I couldn’t get that to work at all. As of right now I’m borrowing a Atheros 5212-based 3Com PCMCIA card. This worked like a charm (almost) right out of the box.

5) This is a bit experimental, but I had some problems with the wlan adapters not waking up or functioning 100% after suspending the PC or putting it into hibernation. These went away after editing /etc/default/acpi-support (sudo gedit /etc/default/acpi-support in a terminal) and setting “ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true” instead of false which is default.

6) The default ATI graphics driver works reasonably well in 2D mode but turn those fancy screen savers off. I have no need of it, but 3D support can be enabled by installing the fglrx drivers for full 3D support even with the tricky integrated Xpress 200M based card the nx6125 is equipped with. The procedure is explained in this post, once again on the Ubuntu forums. You also might want to check out the wiki he’s refering to for a more detailed explanation. But the current fglrx drivers breaks the sleep, hibernate and suspend modes. I haven’t installed them since these are more important to me than 3D on my laptop.

Update: The fglrx 8.25.18 drivers released 26th of June 2006 supports the Xpress 200M chipset. I’ve installed it as described in this post, and it seems to work as advertised. I havent had any problems with suspend or hibernate, but I can’t see any difference in 2D performance either. I am however not able to adjust the screen brightness anymore using the laptop’s fn+f9/f10 buttons, and I can’t seem to find any other way of doing it either.

All in all Ubuntu 6.06 works reasonably well on the HP nx6125. It does take some fettling to get it going, but all in all it’s not bad. The Broadcom wlan and the ATI graphics are the only real problems as of now, and hopefully they’ll be fixed one day too. With the 3Com PCMCIA adapter on board really have no gripes with this setup at all.